Cleveland’s Last Gasp have been fighting off that final, wheezing expulsion of air since their inception.
After having been born into the chaos that was 2020, they’ve since been a closely monitored commodity on the strength of a litany of singles, a Spy vs. Spy-themed split, and a killer EP known as Second Wave.
Enter their latest, a long playing set of cuts dubbed The Storied Weight of It All. The release is being handled courtesy of Dropping Bombs, Crew Cuts, and Version City Blues, a top shelf triumvirate of hardcore if there ever was one.
An upgrade in every way, the LP still sports the requisite gritty production but flirts with something a bit more crystalline and muscled. Again working with Steve Perrino at Cleveland’s Bottleworks, it’d seem the Rust Belt boasts a hidden gem in its midst. There’s also a greater emphasis on memorable songwriting, hooks, and upped intensity.
Despite a relatively lightspeed listen at only 16 minutes, Last Gasp still manage some world-building and, most importantly, a clearly defined sense of character. Lesser bands bang out records for a decade without ever sniffing the fully fledged identity of a band like this. Let’s get to it.
Opener “I Was a Teenage Maniac” stands on the shoulders of song title traditionalism. Though not necessarily calling to mind The Cramps classic “I Was a Teenage Werewolf," Green Day’s regrettable “I Was a Teenage Teenager," or the go for broke turn “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” by Against Me, it’s also deeply rooted in the tradition of hardcore punk intros. It starts mid-paced and circles pugilistically, a slow build of tension that’ll have showgoers scrambling inside or further forward in mere seconds.
What ultimately sets the song and frankly, the band, is the exemplary story telling. The song doesn’t just morph into its blazing back end, it’s a novelesque portrait of admitted delinquency. Shit, it reads like a wholesale repudiation of youth’s bullshit promises. All that superlative gushing aside, that they can pull off decipherable lyrics at this pace is no small feat.
For all the breathless expediency across the album’s runtime, Last Gasp still manage to deftly incorporate slowdowns that give it a sweeping sensibility. Case in point is “For the Kids.” Dropping in with fast skatepunk vibes, it’s more in line with the off the rails urban despair of Street Prowl, as is subsequent track “The Seeker.” Whilst they both explore similar territory, they toss in a mid-paced passages and sudden changes of tempo akin to the sneering vibes of early Circle Jerks.
Speaking of the band’s heavy nods to classic punk, “One Last Drink” starts with the exact same ringing chords that usher in the Dead Boys classic “Sonic Reducer.” Yet, even when they take a momentary glance at the past, they seamlessly segue into a stampeding barrage of fast hardcore a la early Ceremony or Outbreak.
Elsewhere, Last Gasp wear their reverence proudly without succumbing to needless homage. Check the early AFI snotty vocals on “Nowhere 2B Found” or the careening assault of “Only Jokes.” This shit is no laughing matter, instead adding deadly serious and heartily imposing backing vocals:
Both “Not the One” and “Postpone My Suicide” finds the band squarely in the company of early oughts classics like Right Brigade, Allegiance, and Panic. One could almost imagine the hype machine backing this album on the Bridge Nine board. Lyrically mining what could ultimately get bogged down in hardcore tropes, the band’s poetic approach elevates it to something far more substantial and, ultimately, rewarding.
“To Seed the Gravel” is a vicious takedown of violence, most notably the variety perpetuated by the cowards hiding behind the badge. Possibly my album highlight, it also boasts the band’s heaviest moments to date. Playing their taut and fast brand of hardcore, the “almost” breakdown is a thrilling addition to the penultimate track.
“Vastly Deep” starts off with a blitz of rolling snare and blasts before launching into their now trademark hook-laden and aggressive hardcore. Prior to the minute mark, the band employs their best trick to date. Slowing the tempo, they simultaneously ratchet up the intensity until it relents into an isolated bass run and a raw throated final scream.
As the album fades into an obscure Vera Lynn sample, we’re gifted what I hope is a promise from Last Gasp as she sings “We’ll Meet Again, Someday”… I should fucking hope so. Last Gasp have breath yet and we need to hear each one.
Fans of True Love, Speedway, Rotting Out Chemical Fix, Time and Pressure, Ill Communication, Change, and fast shit should look no further for your new favorite band.
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